Every year, as the hope of warmer weather approaches, shelters across the country prepare for the inevitable – an overwhelming number of homeless animals finding their way into their care. It happens without any question of what’s to come, so animal shelters work harder and harder every day to spread awareness about the only solution to pet overpopulation – spaying and neutering. Luckily, in the animal welfare world, there is an entire month dedicated to educating communities about this topic.
February is known by animal shelters as Spay/Neuter Awareness Month. “Just in time to help keep Cupid’s arrow away from your pets,” 24PetWatch states. Simply enough, it’s the month before kitten and puppy season when shelters make their last minute pleas with citizens to have their pets spayed and neutered before they go into heat in the springtime.
According to statistics collected by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), 90% of dogs and 98% of cats entering shelters are unaltered. Further, 80% of the kittens born each year in the U.S. are born from unaltered community cats. These staggering statistics show a true picture of the issue facing our shelters every day – too many unaltered animals giving birth to too many animals without homes.
When a shelter reaches a crisis level of animals, we see amazing support from the community in helping get a large number of animals out of the shelter and into a loving home. Though incredibly important, this is only temporary. Not long after, these shelters will be filled to the brim with homeless animals once again. Adding to the point that the issue is a lack of spaying and neutering.
Unfortunately, there are many myths surrounding this procedure that scares many pet owners out of altering their pets:
“Spaying and neutering causes weight gain.” False.
“Neutering will cause my male dog to become aggressive.” False. “The surgery is too expensive.” False.
“Altering your pet will cause health issues.” False.
Spaying and neutering not only helps shelters combat the overpopulation issue, it is good for your pet and your community. It reduces aggression, roaming behaviors, spraying and marking, lowers the risk of cancers and can even increase your pet’s lifespan up to 3-5 years. Spaying and neutering benefits our pets and helps them live their longest, healthiest and happiest life.
According to HSUS, over 23 million pets live in underserved communities, and nearly 87% of those pets are unaltered. To these owners, the "too expensive" idea may not completely be a myth to those underserved persons. It’s true that there are many private veterinarians that charge a price too high for some pet-owning households. This doesn’t mean that these loving homes should not own a pet; they just need to find an affordable option. Lucky for them, there are many nonprofits and animal shelters offering affordable solutions.
The SPCA Albrecht Center, and other nonprofit spay and neuter clinics, offers affordable prices as a way to incentivize the public to alter their pets. Specifically, the SPCA’s Veterinary Care Center offers spay and neuter surgeries from $40 to $125 (based on the weight and sex of the animal). If this price is still unaffordable for some, the City of Aiken, Aiken County and Edgefield County offer $15 or $20 spay and neuter vouchers to qualifying households.
For more information about the SPCA’s Veterinary Care Center: www.spcavetcare.org.
For more information about the spay and neuter voucher program: www.spcavetcare.org/spayneuter.
None of these false ideas are more important than the fact that 1.5 million animals are being euthanized in shelters across our country every year, many of which are healthy and adoptable, according to the ASPCA. Not to mention the numerous no-kill shelters, like the SPCA Albrecht Center, that don’t euthanize but have exorbitant expenses, staff burnout and animals with declining mental health after being in a shelter for weeks, months and even years. All of this can be alleviated if we all did our part to lighten the load of pet overpopulation.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, spaying and neutering is the only solution to pet overpopulation. There are many ways you, as a citizen, can do your part to save these animals and your local shelter – especially in February. Share this article and (respectfully) educate friends and family about the pet overpopulation issue. Share about affordable spay and neuter programs or donate to your friend’s pet’s spay and neuter surgery. Help spay and neuter community cats through a local TNR program. Adopt a shelter pet – they’re already altered! But most importantly, spay and neuter your own pets.